First of all, why do a self drive around New Zealand as opposed to going on a tour bus? Firstly, there’s the added freedom to see what you want, when you want and how long you desire. Travelling at your own pace allows you to discover more as you explore iconic attractions, off-road adventures, and scenic views, all within your own privacy. If you’re not from the area, you can just rent a car and pick it up when you arrive at one of the airports.
Now, there’s two islands that form New Zealand if you don’t know already – North and South Island. I’d like to tell you all about South Island based on a previous road trip I made when I last visited. Generally you can find cheap flights to New Zealand as there are often great deals depending on when you plan to go. When I went, it was almost half of what it would normally cost, so I definitely caught a good bargain. My experience road tripping around New Zealand was a short albeit eventful one, as I had planned my own itinerary beforehand and 3 days was simply not enough. Hopefully you have more time than that and can add to my recommendations!
Christchurch to Dunedin took 3 days, with 541 km. I’ll admit it was very tiring, but the scenery made everything worth it. All these amazing landscapes consisting of lakes, mountains, wildlife… it was simply unforgettable.
First day was an easy drive from Christchurch City to Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo was a great stop with an amazingly strange turquoise colour due to the rock flour from the glaciers. There were some nice things such as the Church of the Good Shepherd, the sheepdog monument and there were plenty of walking tracks too. I ended up doing the one up to Mount John Observatory which was 1031m. At night there was no air pollution, and I won’t forget seeing the Southern Lights here at Lake Tekapo up on Mount John Observatory.
The second day was another 2 hours of driving. Very relaxed. We took a detour enroute to Omarama before heading to Lake Ohau where we saw the Southern Alps amongst the backdrop. Omarama was where I did horse riding for the first time ever! Almost forgot to mention that there was a gigantic merino sheep statue there too.
The third and final day from Omarama to Dunedin was about 3 hours long. There were heaps of turquoise blue lakes along the way. Lake Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki were all just amazing. I don’t think I’ve been so amazed at Earth before. New Zealand’s Moeraki Boulders along the beach, fur seals and penguins at Katiki Point… it was a truly wild adventure. To top it off, Dunedin continued to surprise me, being so rich in history and architecture. The Victorian and Edwardian buildings were a blast in the past.
If you’re planning on driving around New Zealand, I’d personally recommend going for 2 weeks. There’s so much to see and do!